Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) quoted from the Bible and told students that America was founded on “racist principles” during a speech on Monday at Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university in Virginia.
“I would also say that as a nation, the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created, and I’m sorry to have to say this, from way back on racist principles, that’s a fact,” Sanders said during a Q&A following his speech. “We have come a long way as a nation.”
Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, quoted from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible during his speech. The senator acknowledged early on that there were major things students of the school, which was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, would likely disagree with him on, but that he was there to try to find common ground.
Sanders cited Matthew 7:12, a verse that refers to what is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule, and Amos 5:24: “But let justice roll on a like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
Sanders said the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a great step forward for America, but the country’s founding on “racist principles” and “institutional racism cries out for reform.”
The university has traditionally been a campaign stop for GOP candidates, but it is more rare to see a Democrat speak there. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced his presidential campaign earlier this year during one of the university’s convocations. Cruz’s platforms and convictions are much more in line with that of Liberty’s students and staff than are those held by Sanders.
“I came here today because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it’s vitally important for people who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse,” Sanders said. He went on to address his steadfast beliefs in gay marriage, the right to an abortion, war as a last resort and paid family leave.
His repeated phrase on Monday was: “There is no justice.”
But when “there is no justice” was followed by talk of income inequality, Sanders received little applause.
The crowd’s loudest response was when the moderator asked him how his ardent support of poor and underprivileged children could be reconciled with his views on abortion.
Sanders said while he respected abortion opponents, he hoped “that other people will respect the very painful and difficult choice women have to make.”